Remote working was not all that common before COVID-19, only 26% of South Africans had the freedom to work from home before the crisis. Since March last year, almost all businesses in South Africa turned to technologies like digital communication and collaboration to enable employees to work remotely, without stepping out of their homes to adhere to Government regulations and assist in curbing the spread of the COVID-19.
Productivity has increased as a result of working from home
According to the GetApp study on productivity in the workplace, 30% of South African employees said their productivity has increased as a result of working from home, whilst 25% of employees said that they perform better with a mix of in-office and remote working.
The study also revealed that 37% of employees prefer to work at home on full-time basis, whilst 30% of employees prefer going to the office at least 2-3 times a week. Businesses in South Africa are still trying to navigate through this new working order and bring to life their company culture, ethics; and allow for flexibility, transparency, and collaboration; which are necessities for effective remote working. Businesses need to adapt its culture in this emerging hybrid model that combines remote work with a traditional office hub.
Greater adoption of new cloud-based technologies and collaboration tools are a major driver
On a global scale, South Africa currently ranks 78th on the Digital Readiness Index that was published by Cisco in early 2020. This statistic further highlights that even with South Africa’s low ranking, multiple businesses still see themselves as already digitally transformed. This reflects a disparity between the companies’ transformation journey versus the country’s transformation journey and infrastructure capabilities. Therefore, South Africa’s digital transformation is mainly lead by its business sector.
Greater adoption of new cloud–based technologies is the major driver of this trend. The productivity in the workplace survey shows that South African employees consider online meeting software, document sharing tools and collaboration software as the three most critical tools for their productivity.
Working remotely can seem like a dream come true for many employees— but it can present its own set of challenges
Many employees are trying to oversee day to day family needs whilst balancing their children’s education at home because many schools are closed or operating virtually. These employees need flexibility and support to stay engaged and productive while also dealing with the larger social disruption that has forced many of them; particularly employees dealing with loss and COVID-19 care.
Amongst the many challenges like dealing with depression, loneliness, time management problems and adapting to constant digital miscommunication, employees have expressed frustration with technology challenges like connectivity, cost of data, adequate equipment – 78% of employees expressed challenges with internet and speed.
On the positive side, remote working is effective on multiple levels. It ensures that employees are safe and productive; while it also transforms businesses by equipping them with resilient and adaptive ways to engage with their stakeholders and deliver economic value.
Therefore, businesses need to ensure that employees have the hardware and software they need to do their job and invest in the tools and training needed to support hybrid working that will benefit both businesses and employee’s productivity.
Productivity and remote workplace study: GetApp Survey methodology
Data for this study was collected in November 2020 from an online survey of 450 respondents that live in South Africa.
To participate in the survey, respondents had to be:
- Employed full-time or part-time, or self-employed
- Working for a company with at least two people
- Working remotely sometimes or all the time since COVID-19.